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Volume 21 No. 1
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United Airlines grabs Coliseum naming rights

United Airlines is buying the naming rights to venerable Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for just north of $70 million over 15 years, according to sources familiar with the negotiations, making it the richest naming-rights deal among college football stadiums.

A rendering of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum after renovations, to be finished in 2019.
At $4.7 million per year, United’s deal will surpass the 10-year, $41 million deal Alaska Airlines signed for naming rights to the field at the University of Washington’s Husky Stadium. That deal was done in September 2015.

Fox Sports, through its partnership with the University of Southern California, has been attempting to sell naming rights to one of the nation’s most recognizable venues since July 2015. The revenue from a naming-rights deal is expected to help offset costs of the $270 million renovation to the Coliseum, school officials have said. The renovation, which is in the early stages of development, is targeted for completion for the 2019 football season.

How United’s brand name will be attached isn’t clear, but school and Fox officials in the past have said “Memorial Coliseum” would be retained in the name. As of last week, sources indicated that the contract has not yet been signed and an announcement could still be weeks away, but an agreement is in place.

Top United sports properties

Acquired naming rights to the United Center in 1992; current 20-year deal worth $100 million, expiring in 2034; also the official airline of both the Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks
Founding partner of the Chase Center, the Golden State Warriors’ arena scheduled to open in 2019; also a team sponsor
Titles the United Club, the largest club space at Levi’s Stadium, and is a San Francisco 49ers team sponsor
U.S. Olympic Committee partner since 1980; current deal runs through 2020; also sponsors 26 U.S. national governing bodies
13 NFL teams
6 Major League Baseball clubs
PGA Tour, Champions Tour and Tour since 2010, as well as the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Northern Trust Open, The Barclays, Quicken Loans National and the BMW Championship
New York City Road Runners and the TCS New York City Marathon
Title sponsor of Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon series events in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco

Source: SportsBusiness Journal research

While Fox took the lead on the sale, USC and Fox have been working in tandem to identify corporate candidates for a naming-rights deal. One of the reasons United emerged is because the airline’s CEO, Oscar Munoz, is a graduate of the USC business school. Los Angeles International Airport is one of United’s U.S. hubs.

Naming rights for the Coliseum would carry value that extends beyond many typical college sponsorships and naming-rights deals. In addition to being the Trojans’ home stadium, the Coliseum represents the temporary home for the Los Angeles Rams, who played there last season and plan to be there through the 2019 season before their new stadium opens in 2020. Last week, project officials in Inglewood announced the $2.6 billion stadium would open one year later due to heavy rains this year in Greater Los Angeles.

The Coliseum, which opened in 1923, will play a large role in the city’s attempts to host the 2024 Olympic Games. The stadium is expected to host the track and field competition, while also serving as an auxiliary site for opening ceremonies, even though corporate branding is typically covered during the Games.

A naming-rights sponsor also could benefit from the Coliseum’s marquee and its visibility right next to the busy I-110 freeway. That stadium signage is considered part of the naming-rights package.

Fox and USC have been in business together since 2012 when the school decided to outsource its multimedia rights, which include sponsorships, hospitality, radio and TV rights that aren’t owned by the Pac-12 Conference.

Naming rights were not part of that original 10-year deal. It wasn’t until 2015 that Fox obtained the ability to sell naming rights for the Coliseum, which is now managed by the school.

Staff writer Don Muret contributed to this report.

College stadium naming rights

Ranked by average annual value

Facility School Sponsor Cost (years) Avg. annual value Expiration
L.A. Coliseum* USC United Airlines $70M (15 years) $4.7M 2031
Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium Washington Alaska Airlines $41M (10 years) $4.1M 2025
TDECU Stadium Houston Texas Dow Employees Credit Union $15M (10 years) $1.5M 2024
Kroger Field Kentucky Kroger $22.2M (12 years) $1.85M 2028
TCF Bank Stadium Minnesota TCF National Bank $35M (25 years) $1.4M 2034
Apogee Stadium North Texas Apogee $20M (20 years) $1.0M 2030
Spectrum Stadium Central Florida Charter Communications $15M (15 years) $1.0M 2022
TD Ameritrade Park Omaha^ College World Series TD Ameritrade $15M (15 years) $1.0M 2022
UFCU Disch-Falk Field^ Texas University Federal Credit Union $13.1M (15 years) $873,333 2021
Albertsons Stadium Boise State Albertsons $12.5M (15 years) $833,333 2029

* Name to be determined
^ Baseball stadium
Source: SportsBusiness Journal research